The St George Illawarra Dragons were defeated 38-18 by the North Queensland Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville on Saturday.
The Young Dragons managed only the three tries during the match with Patrick Herbert, Jacob Host, Jack Payne and Paora Kemp all getting their names on the scoresheet.
Head Coach Mat Head had made numerous changes to the line-up announced midweek with debutant Donte Efaraimo named on the winger in lieu of Logan Yates and s Host returning from the Illawarra Cutters to start in the second-row.
Additionally, Topiese Taufa and Jacob Esau shifted to the starting forward-pack as TJ Uele and Matt Head both reverted to the interchange bench alongside utilities Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards and Tony Pellow.
The visitors had not won away from home this season and notched only the one victory entering the encounter but this statistic had fallen on deaf-ears when play initially began.
The Young Dragons had tested their hosts from the onset of the first stanza and were rewarded with the breakthrough try courtesy of Herbert’s darting dash from the centres in the sixth minute.
Unfortunately, despite their best efforts at defending, the visitors allowed the home side to level proceedings through second-rower Coen Hess midway through the period.
Fellow Cowboys second-rower Cody Grills subsequently added the extras to gift his team the lead.
The home side later added a further four-point blow, again through Hess, in the 28th minute.
Fortunately, in a climactic period of play, the visitors managed to claw their way back into contention when Host barged his way over the stripe two minutes shy of the interval.
The second period had started in the worst fashion possible for the Dragons as the home side slotted home an easy four-pointer two minutes in.
Cowboys winger Marcus Jensen had capitalised off a simple slip-up by opposite number Reuben Garrick as he extended his team’s lead back out to six-points.
Further misery was inflicted on the visitors minutes later when both hooker Brandon Smith and Jesse Pomare-Anderson respectively scored for the Cowboys.
The home side managed to add a further two unanswered tries through fullback Kalyn Ponga and centre Enari Tualo prior to the hour mark.
Despite his team’s good work, Grills converted only one of his five attempts during the period to make it 32-8.
The hosts managed to deal the visitors with a fifth unanswered blow through utility Ross Bella in the 66th minute.
Ponga had been gifted kicking duties by then and he made it 38-8.
The Dragons later rallied in the closing minutes of the game and scored through both Payne and Kemp prior to the final whistle.
The latter notched only the one conversion from his two attempts for the scoreboard to read 38-18.
St George Illawarra Dragons 18. Tries: Herbert, Host, Payne, Kemp. Goals: Kemp (1/4).
North Queensland Cowboys 38. Tries: Hess (2), Jensen, Smith, Pomare-Anderson, Ponga, Tualo, Bella. Goals: Grills (2/7), Ponga (1/1).